Peace, Life’s Highest Blessing

8 09 2014
I now follow Rabbi Shmuley’s Twitter posts. I find some of what he says to be intellectual. This piece is inspiring.
Pastor Dave
Judaism promotes peace as life’s highest ideal, humanity’s most noble achievement. By peace we mean, to paraphrase Martin Luther King, not just the absence of conflict but the presence of justice. By peace we also mean not just the absence of war but the presence of harmony. And by peace we mean not just in its external manifestation in the public sphere but in the private realm as well.

Not just world peace but inner peace.

Every year on Passover Jews read the story of the ten plagues which God visited on Egypt. My children often ask me why frogs were such a terrible plague. Was God really showing His power to the Egyptians by sending against them an army of amphibians? Would the nation that would eventually produced Cleopatra, who purportedly killed herself by grabbing a poisonous snake, really have cared?

But the true plague of the frogs was how the din of their incessant ribbetting robbed the Egyptians of all peace. We who inhabit the modern world have a unique understanding of the utter agony represented by a world that is never silent.

Forty years ago John Lennon made the observation that when he grew up what was always heard in the background of homes was the soothing crackling of a fire, only to be replaced by the incessant noise of televisions that are always blaring in the background.

The inability to ever shut out noise is a plague. But beyond the pain caused by the utter lack of peace there is the further consideration of drowning out the inner voice of conscience.

Each of us is immersed in a culture that throws various voices at us. Hollywood and the fashion industry hits us with the aesthetic voice, telling us that what matters most is physical beauty. Wall Street and Madison avenue hits us with the monetary voice which tells us that the most important thing in life is money and affording the material objects that will bring us pleasure. And politics hits us with the power voice which tells us that the most significant thing in life is acquiring dominion over others.

But beneath all these noises is the inner voice of conscience which whispers to us that we are born for lives of compassion and goodness. It’s nice to be pretty. But it’s even nicer to be nice. It’s a blessing to be wealthy. But even more important is to live lives of charity and humility where we make others feel their own significance.
The truest form of peace is where our external actions match our inner convictions, where there is symmetry between our outer and inner selves, and where the voice of conscience need not shout but only whisper.

There is no human being that is born without that voice and to the extent that it is lost it is because it is drown out by all the other voices that surround us.

The Egyptians, like all human beings, had an innate sense of morality and fair play. So how could they have enslaved a helpless people? Because the soul’s voice of fraternity and brotherhood was drown out by Pharaoh’s voice of dominion and power. As the Bible related, “Look, he said to his people, the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” The Egyptians allowed the foreign voice of the will to power to override the rhythmic march to harmony.

In this sense, the racket of the frogs-plague was an external manifestation of what had already occurred. The Egyptians could no longer hear the inner song of their own souls. They could only hear the clamor of the artificial, external voice that slowly erodes our spiritual peace.

The high purpose of religion is to attune ourselves to that universal inner human frequency that calls on us to live in fraternity and brotherhood with the entire human family and indeed with all of God’s creation.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi”, syndicated columnist and best-selling author, is the founder of This World: The Values Network, the world’s leading organization promoting universal Jewish values in media, politics, and culture. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley

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